S-adenosylmethionine is a source of diverse chemical groups used in biosynthesis and modification of virtually every class of biomolecules. The most notable reaction requiring S-adenosylmethionine, transfer of methyl group, is performed by a large class of enzymes, S-adenosylmethionine-dependent methyltransferases, which have been the focus of considerable structure-function studies. Evolutionary trajectories of these enzymes, and especially of other classes of S-adenosylmethionine-binding proteins, nevertheless, remain poorly understood. We addressed this issue by computational comparison of sequences and structures of various S-adenosylmethionine-binding proteins.
Two widespread folds, Rossmann fold and TIM barrel, have been repeatedly used in evolution for diverse types of S-adenosylmethionine conversion. There were also cases of recruitment of other relatively common folds for S-adenosylmethionine binding. Several classes of proteins have unique unrelated folds, specialized for just one type of chemistry and unified by the theme of internal domain duplications. In several cases, functional divergence is evident, when evolutionarily related enzymes have changed the mode of binding and the type of chemical transformation of S-adenosylmethionine. There are also instances of functional convergence, when biochemically similar processes are performed by drastically different classes of S-adenosylmethionine-binding proteins.
Comparison of remote sequence similarities and analysis of phyletic patterns suggests that the last universal common ancestor of cellular life had between 10 and 20 S-adenosylmethionine-binding proteins from at least 5 fold classes, providing for S-adenosylmethionine formation, polyamine biosynthesis, and methylation of several substrates, including nucleic acids and peptide chain release factor.
We have observed several novel relationships between families that were not known to be related before, and defined 15 large superfamilies of SAM-binding proteins, at least 5 of which may have been represented in the last common ancestor.